Here is my NHL awards ballot, blemishes and all, that was sent to Ernst & Young -- I am told this is an accounting firm, not a couple of healthy scratches from the Wild lineup -- for compilation. The voting process is agony for me because the results announced in late June represent more than a night of trophies and tuxedos for NHL players. The awards are about their legacies.
A Hart, a Norris, a first-team all-star selection and even a Lady Byng will go on what high school principals used to, and maybe still call, your permanent record. Maybe winning the 2010 Selke puts a player over the top when the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee mulls his candidacy in a decade or so. You never know.
So this is one man's vote, with an explanatory note at the end of each category.
1. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington2. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh4. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix5. Ryan Miller, Buffalo
The NHL's MVP usually is apparent, at least to me. Not this year. There were three candidates I really couldn't separate -- and even now I'm not sure that I nailed this. Sedin was exceptional, especially in his brother Daniel's early-season absence. And Crosby, who scored 51 goals, continues to amaze and delight. I never thought I'd see him have more goals but fewer assists than Ovechkin, but there you go. The strict constructionists have a strong case that Crosby and both goalies were more valuable to their team than Ovechkin -- this is the definition of the award -- but then a goaltender might win every year. (In an exercise in group overthink in 2002, José Théodore beat Jarome Iginla.) Although Ovechkin had a stronger supporting cast than Crosby, his role as the fulcrum on the NHL's best team and his superior play against teams outside the Little Sisters of the Poor -- a.k.a. the Southeast Division -- swung me to the left winger.
1. Duncan Keith, Chicago2. Mike Green, Washington3. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit5. Chris Pronger, Philadelphia
Green had the best numbers, offensively and plus-minus. But despite Washington coach Bruce Boudreau's protestations, Green is not as reliable a defender as anyone else in the top four. Doughty should win this award multiple times, so consider Keith a caretaker. And even though he has slowed, there is no one I would want more on the ice in the last minute of a one-goal game than Lidstrom, a six-time winner.
1. Tyler Myers, Buffalo2. Jimmy Howard, Detroit3. Matt Duchene, Colorado4. Tuukka Rask, Boston5. TJ Galiardi, Colorado
The Islanders' John Tavares is not in the top five, probably because my expectations for him were so much greater than his middling season -- especially after a rousing start. Myers, a defenseman, ranks at the top because he plays the most difficult position to master for a rookie. (My inclination is always to lean towards the defenseman; once upon a time I liked Mattias Ohlund over Sergei Samsonov.) If Rask had played another 10 games, he might have leaped another two places.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit2. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay3. Brad Richards, Dallas4. Brian Rafalski, Detroit5. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
This one is a snap for me. And it has been for years even though my fellow hockey writers never see it this way. I will be gobsmacked if St. Louis (94 points, 12 PIMs) doesn't win. St. Louis, of course, is a gifted winger. But Lidstrom plays on the top Wings defense pair, mucking it up against all the best forwards in the league. He averaged 25:25 per game. Still, he took only 12 minor penalties all season. Given the nature of his role, he should have been winning this award annually since the early years of the Bush administration.
1. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit2. Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh3. Michal Handzus, Los Angeles4. Jay McClement, St. Louis5. Martin Hanzal, Phoenix
The award was designed to honor forwards like Bob Gainey, the true defensive specialists, but somewhere along the line the Selke lost its way and morphed into an honor for the best two-way forward. That's why it irks me to top my vote not with the estimable Staal but the best two-way forward, Datsyuk. Staal is a genuine pain to play against, but the fact is, there is no better defender than the amazing Datsyuk. He is a modern Houdini, magically swiping pucks, picking pockets. (Note: Because this always is a tough category for me to pick, I enlisted the opinions of some real experts -- several high-end forwards, including Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.)
Center1. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
Left Wing1. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington2. Patrick Marleau, San Jose3. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver
Right wing1. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay2. Marian Gaborik, Rangers3. Patrick Kane, Chicago
Defense1. Duncan Keith, Chicago2. Mike Green, Washington3. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit5. Chris Pronger, Philadelphia6. Dan Boyle, San Jose
Goaltender1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo,2. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix3. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey
Forwards1. Matt Duchene, Colorado2. TJ Galiardi, Colorado3. John Tavares, Islanders
Defensemen1. Tyler Myers, Buffalo2. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers
Goaltender1. Jimmy Howard, Detroit